Strange Encounters LA: Taco Bell Tuesday

I usually eat dinner at work, but for whatever reason, yesterday I didn’t. There are several fine dining establishments on my 12 mile route home–naturally, I pick the bottom of the proverbial fast food chain to assuage my appetite.

THE BELL.

I drive up to the little box and place my order. A worker that could only be described as jovial quickly noted my complicated changes to some of the simplest foodstuffs. No tomato on this, sour cream on that, supreme but skip the avocado ranch dressing. Yes, I am one of those people. 

Not picky about WHAT goes in, but picky about the way it’s assembled.

This employee took it all in stride and was incredibly polite.

“That’s nice,” I thought, “someone on the other end of these things that  doesn’t sound like they hate their job.”

I pull around to the second window (the first has been boarded shut. Side note: why is this so prevalent at fast food places today? What’s wrong with using two windows? It breaks up the wait!) and meet the man behind the speaker.

Dude: [Repeats my order]

Me: Yep, that’s me!

Dude: [$Total]. You gonna eat all of this by yourself?

Me: [Awkwardly thinking of an acceptable response] Yep, every last bite!

Dude: Well, alright! Have you been working hard or hardly working today?

Me: Well…I’m a nanny. 

Dude: Oh, then you’ve DEFINITELY been working hard.

Me: What about you?

Dude: I work hard everyday. 

Me: Great!

The Dude then moves inward towards the preparation stations and the grills. I’m fiddling on my phone–I drive hybrid so technically the engine shuts off when I’m idling…does that mean I’m not breaking any laws?–when he returns with a bag of cinnamon twists.

Dude: Here is something to reward you for your hard day’s work!

Me: THANK YOU!

“Huzzah,” I exclaimed inwardly, “being friendly with people really can payoff! This is just what I need–a reminder that a kind interaction with no ulterior motive can sometimes lead to swell things! Here’s to a new worldview!”

The Dude then hands me the rest of my order.

Me: Thanks, have a great night!

Dude: Hey, you got a boyfriend?

Me: [as I’m pulling away from the window oh gosh oh gosh what do I say I don’t do well with this kind of unsolicited attention is it obvious that I don’t have a boyfriend gaahhhhh]…YEP!

Well, there goes my new worldview.

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I I I Wanna Go Go Go All the Way Way Way

If you got the song I was referencing in the title of this post–10 POINTS to you, you go, Glen Coco!

Someone is in Las Vegas this weekend.

Hint: It’s me.

My former tween-aged self is rearing her barely groomed head in the form of traveling 5 hours from LA to Sin City for the next three days.

All to perform a 1990’s pilgrimage to see the Prophetess End-of-Century of Pop in Residence: Miss Britney J. Spears.

I’m currently seated next to one of the only working outlets in the Las Vegas Airport waiting for one of my many companions’ arrival. More details will emerge as this weekend of unadulterated bliss unfolds.

To get myself pumped up for what promises to be a tromp through the musical minefield of nostalgia, I’ve been perusing some Buzzfeed links that I’m going to leave here for you (to live vicariously through me).

You’re Welcome.

How Big of a Britney Spears Fan Are You?

The 5 Best Things We Learned About Britney Spears from her 1999 Twist Magazine Questionnaire

The 20 Best Amazon Reviews of Britney Spears’ Debut Album from 1999

When I Was Britney Spears’ Biggest Fan: A Collection

Aaaaand my favorite song from the debut album (or, at least it was my favorite in 1999–those lyrics. So Inspired.):

 

P.S. While compiling this list, actor Tracey Morgan walked past me with his sweet baby daughter. I’m not sure I’m supposed to type that–what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas.

Syncope in a Subway Sandwich Shop OR Panic by the Pickles–Part 2

Where was I?

Oh, yes.

Ahem:

My heartbeat was moving so rapidly that I felt like I had just sprinted around a high school track. I broke out into a cold sweat that began to pool in my lower back.

I knew I was going down.

As I stood there, fully realizing that I was going to pass out, I took out my phone and texted my good friend Marina (who I have known for well over 14 years), “I’m having a panic attack in a Subway”.

Yep, instead of getting out of line to sit down and collect myself, I texted my friend that lives thousands of miles away.

She then texted me back multiple pictures of cute puppies doing cute things because under normal circumstances, those would’ve helped. She wasn’t completely aware that my panic attack included losing consciousness in a fast food joint.

I asked the person behind the counter arranging my sandwich if I could have a cup for water.

“Oh, you’ll get that at the register.”

I asked again, I’m not sure what tone I used because my memory of that particular moment is a bit foggy. She gave me a look, handed me the cup, and I stepped out of line.

I shakily filled the cup and could’ve sworn that my legs had been replaced by two stout columns of wobbly jello.

I sat at a table for two, leaned back against the wall, and tried to stop the room from spinning. I couldn’t hear anything–the sound was too muffled–and all I could manage to tell myself was “Don’t you dare pass out in a Subway. Don’t do it. They’ll call an ambulance, they’ll make a big deal of it. All of your friends are at work, you can’t do that alone. Get back to your apartment.”

Thinking back on it, leaving the Subway probably wasn’t the best plan. Didn’t matter, though, I couldn’t get up out of the chair without feeling like I was going to fall over.

Every time I started to gain clarity, I would gently remind myself, “YOU’RE GOING TO PASS OUT, YOU’RE GOING TO PASS OUT!” and then start to lose it all over again.

As I surveyed the people sitting around me–or, really, made sure no one was calling an ambulance, I noticed something strikingly odd.

No one was noticing.

Or if they did, they averted their attention.

I was no longer in the South where a simple sneeze merits a thousand bless you’s and everyone’s face shows concern for what probably is just allergies.

Here I am, a young female, not well dressed but certainly not slovenly, acting erratically. No one offered a second glance or even asked if I was ok. In fact, one of the girls at the register had another customer approach me and ask if I was ready to pay. While my head was in my hands and I squinted at the poor teenaged messenger, I wondered what the cashier’s deal was. I was obviously in distress and instead of offering assistance, she is asking me for my money. Later, my friend Blake would remind me that, “this is LA. They probably see crazy stuff everyday.”

Truth.

After what felt like an eternity later, my vision had come back (just barely) and I noticed that I had yet to black out. I stood up, gathered my belongings, and hobbled out of the store. I called Marina on the phone and she graciously accompanied me via telephone for the walk–where I again reminded myself that I was having a panic attack and started to drift off.

Marina asked nervously, “Are you walking down the actual street or are you…”

“I’m on the sidewalk.”

“Good!”

I couldn’t talk much, on account of the fact that talking apparently takes a lot of energy when you don’t have total control over your faculties, so I tried to listen to her tell me a wonderful story about a hot young Brazilian in her office.

That girl knows how to keep me focused.

I returned to my apartment, hung up the phone, and quickly took off my clothes (something I never do besides when I’m in the shower because I get anxious thinking about being naked during an earthquake and having the Rescue Team find me in my birthday suit). [Sorry if you’re getting undesired mental imagery. It comes with the story].

“Ok. Pass out,” I commanded myself.

Nope.

Nada.

Nothing.

It figures. When I’m at a location where it’s completely safe and acceptable to faint, my body tells me it’s done holding itself hostage and I’m free to do as I please.

I recovered not too long afterwards, showered, and continued on with my day as if I hadn’t just scared the living daylights out of myself.

I’d never had an anxiety attack that had physically disabled me as much as this instance–I usually just end up curled in a ball, sobbing, and fall asleep. That’s the best case scenario, you guys. 

Before I could even begin to feel sorry for myself, I thought about people that had it way worse than me–people who have had to be hospitalized just so they could cope with the unimaginable weight placed on their shoulders by their disorder.

And the worst part is thinking that so many people out there don’t have supportive friends and family that help them get through. I think that a lot of the stigma that comes with having a mental illness is that people just don’t understand. They can’t see your injury and they don’t often get that you can’t just “snap out of it”. There is something in your brain that keeps you from functioning at a normal level.

Here is the answer that most friends of loved ones with these sorts of issues needs to know. The best thing a friend can do in that situation is just say “I’m here, how can I help you?”. That’s it. Just let them know that you’re there and don’t judge them. 

I’d love to hear how you have supported a friend with a mental disorder–or if you are the one living with this raw deal, I’d love to hear how your support system has helped you. Leave your story in the comments!

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Syncope in a Subway Sandwich Shop OR Panic by the Pickles–Part 1

Did you know that the medical term for fainting is “Syncope”?

I didn’t, until yesterday evening when I Googled “ways to avoid passing out.”

[Can I just note, here, that I love that ‘Googled’ is now an actual verb in the English language?]

I’ve only ever come close to passing out a handful of times in my life:

  1. In middle school when I saw my grandfather cleaning out my grandmother’s feeding tube. He knew I wanted to be an OBGYN and so he thought it would be interesting for me to see. I nearly hit the floor before he caught me. My dreams of becoming a doctor, on the other hand, did hit the floor and promptly shattered.
  2. In college, I was in a theatre production of Moliere’s “School for Wives” and was being fitted for a corset. My weight had fluctuated from the semester before, when I was in another stage production, so their numbers were all wonky. As the seamstress laced the corset tighter and tighter, my ears started ringing and I knew I was going to collapse. The head of the department, a lovely woman named Tric (pronounced Trish), gave me chocolate to feel better, which was so Harry Potter-esque that I quickly forgot the horror of the previous episode.
  3. When giving a large amount of blood at the doctor’s office post-college, I met the icy tiles of the floor still somewhat conscious. And by “large amount of blood”, I think it was actually two tiny test tubes. This is when I discovered that donating blood wouldn’t be how I give back to society.

Each time, I had some sort of outside provocation for quickly losing my consciousness. Yesterday was a different story. But first, you need a little backstory.

Cue the Exposition!

I realize there is a stigma surrounding mental health disorders and I DON’T CARE. I’m writing about it here and now because I am neither ashamed nor embarrassed.

In my senior year of college, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder accompanied by panic attacks (not frequent enough to be classified as panic disorder in its own right).

My college has a counseling center that is notorious for being awful. I do have a friend that had a positive experience, but she stands alone among my peers. I was unlucky enough to have received the-opposite-of-help from the counseling center while in the beginning stages of being medicated. The bottom dropped out, bridges were burned, friends who didn’t understand and had no empathy jumped ship, grades were destroyed, yadda yadda yadda–I GRADUATED. And I learned how to cope without meds and with the help of a strong support system of *true* friends and family.

The crappiest part about having an Anxiety Disorder is that you worry–A LOT (understatement of the year)– about things that normal people wouldn’t give a second thought.

  • Maybe you made an off-color joke that your friend didn’t think was funny: you’ve obviously offended them down to their very souls, they will promptly shun you, and you’ll die alone.
  • Maybe you have a pretty bad toothache: the tooth obviously needs to be removed ASAP, and the dentist will probably determine that ALL of your teeth need to be extracted, leaving you with two shining sets of gums to gnaw down whatever food you can, which will ultimately lead to depression and you giving up and wasting away on your living room floor, dying alone. [Or, it could be that a popcorn kernel got stuck in your gum and pops out the next day]

Basically, you take any ordinary situation, inflate the possible outcomes, and make all the “what ifs” end in dying alone.

That’s my day to day, and frankly, I’m not exaggerating (sadly). So you can imagine what it’s like to think of things that actually ARE stress inducing to even the most normal, most stable of people.

When I decide to take a “mental health day” from work, its meaning is legit. It’s also hard for me to call in sick, being a nanny, because: what if the parents had life changing meetings scheduled today, regarding blockbuster movie deals, and because of their lack of childcare, they couldn’t attend, which means they’ll have no money, which means I’ll get fired, lose my apartment/car/collection of children’s literature, have to live on the streets, and (you guessed it) die alone.

You think I’m joking but those were actual thoughts that ticker taped through my head while typing the text that I wouldn’t be in yesterday.

I laid in bed watching more Netflix than I’d like to admit (SCANDAL and The Paradise, for the most part) and got hungry for the first time around noon.

There are several fast food places near my apartment, and the lesser of all of those evils (my personal opinion) was Subway. Home of Jared and his magical, sandwich eating weight loss.

I started my walk, giving myself a pep-talk: “Hey, don’t waste this entire day. You’re not actually sick, you know, so you better get to work on ALL of the side projects you’ve been attempting to complete. Write that pilot and that treatment for a potential pitch, CLEAN your filthy apartment, wash the piles of  laundry that are probably harboring mice by now, etc. etc”.

This “pep-talk” continued as I stood behind two of the slowest women to ever enter that sandwich chain. I mean REALLY. It’s deli meat. It’s an assortment of vegetables. It’s a few dressings. It’s not rocket science!

My vision focused in on my sandwich–sitting and waiting in cold cut purgatory while the idiots ahead of me decided how much lettuce was “enough”. But then–I noticed that my vision was blurring around that sandwich. My ears started to ring and my hearing became muffled. My heartbeat was moving so rapidly that I felt like I had just sprinted around a high school track. I broke out into a cold sweat that began to pool in my lower back.

I knew I was going down.

End of Part 1

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Think about this. Every. Day.